Invasive Non-Native species (INNS) are a present and increasing risk to the favourable condition of our Marine Protected Areas. The Environment Act target to ‘Restore 70% of designated features in our Marine Protected Areas to a favourable condition by 2042, with the rest in a recovering condition’ is a key driver for this work.
The GB Non-Native Species Strategy contains a series of actions to deliver a co-ordinated approach across government and organisations for addressing the threats posed by INNS that follow the guiding principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (prevention, rapid detection and early eradication, long term control).
The UK Marine Strategy requires measures to be put in place to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in marine waters. Descriptor 2 requires that “non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystem.”
The UK has set out the following targets:
The current programme of measures lists biosecurity plans as key actions to help deliver GES.
Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act stipulates:
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person releases or allows to escape into the
wild any animal which—
(a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
(b) is included in Part I of Schedule 9,he shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part II of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offence.
Note: The purpose of Schedule 9 is to list animals or plants that are now ordinarily resident i.e. breeding populations (but still non-native) species that we don’t wish to be released any further.
This legislation is difficult to enforce particularly in the marine environment, however if you can demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken and due diligence exercised to avoid committing the offence e.g. evidence of best practice biosecurity, then this can provide a defence.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), it shall be a defence to a charge of committing an offence under subsection (1) or (2) to prove that the accused took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence.
The Ballast Water Management Convention or BWM Convention (full name International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004) is a treaty adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in order to help prevent the spread of potentially harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships' ballast water. There are also voluntary guidelines provided by the IMO around hull fouling. More information can be found at: Biofouling (imo.org).
The Infrastructure Act 2015 provides for species control orders to tackle INNS. They are applicable in Wales and England and are to be used in exceptional circumstances where a voluntary approach cannot be agreed and there is a clear and significant threat from inaction. They could apply to marinas, ports, offshore platforms and any vessel moored there. The orders would compel landowners to take action on INNS or permit others to enter the land and carry out those operations. The scope of the powers extends to those INNS whose release into the wild is regulated by section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The marine licensing process considers the impacts of any licensable activity on the marine environment which will include assessments of the potential impact from spread or introduction of INNS that could result from that activity. As such, advice from consultees such as Natural England could include recommendations for best practice biosecurity such as a biosecurity plan which may become a condition of the licence. Similar advice could apply to any activity requiring SSSI consent.
Case study: The South Marine Plan
Policy S-NIS-1 in the South marine Plan states: “Proposals must put in place appropriate measures to avoid or minimise significant adverse impacts on the marine area that would arise through the introduction and transport of non-indigenous species, particularly when: 1) moving equipment, boats or livestock (for example fish and shellfish) from one water body to another 2) introducing structures suitable for settlement of non-indigenous species, or the spread of invasive non-indigenous species known to exist in the area.”